We’ve all had them. We’re all likely to have more too. There’s even a huge twist just before the ride ends. Everyone eventually comes to know those roller coaster periods of life where it seems like more is up in the air than is settled. Where gravity is iffy and our stomach is all over the place and one minute we’re squealing with glee and the next we’re plummeting into terror.
We can think we’re going nuts but we’re really not. We’re just becoming. Roller coasters are generally only created when we’re either initiating a change already—like when we initiate a divorce; or when we’ve avoided changing—like when we find out we’re getting divorced. If you look closely at your life you’ll see that you live in about 7-9 year cycles. It’s why Shakespeare talked about the seven ages of man.
Life is as good as we think it is, but there are certainly times where we’re tipped toward exciting, courageous choices that make us feel bigger and stronger. It’s great when we feel like that but—as much as it’s a great place to work from, I rarely get a new student in that State of Mind. People usually call me when they find themselves on the roller coaster unexpectedly.
They call thinking I’ll tell them how to get off it so they’re a bit surprised in sessions when instead we start turning the roller coaster into an event unto itself. The people that volunteered to get on are still going for the same wild ride—but they’re enthusiastic about it. And you can be too even if you’re not right now.
I’ve been waiting to be in the position myself so I could write about it with more impact. But of course those only happen every eight years or so, so it took until now before I found myself in one of those periods.
In my own case it was fortunate that, by the time a really big one happened to me—I already knew what to do.
Acceptance is when you don’t argue with life. Acceptance is quietly living in your circumstances with minimal comparisons or complaints. So now when these times hit I remember that I knew these would happen and so rather than lament the roller coaster’s existence I’m immediately trying to line up just right so I get a good seat.
If I’m going to ride this thing then I want to be at the front where I can basically guess where I’m going and the twists and turns and drops don’t seem anywhere near as dangerous. Instead you sense the design of the coaster a bit better. You can feel the engineering. You can tell that despite the loops and the twists and sudden drops (plus the fact that it drops you off right where it left you), you get the sense that it was engineered just for you. Yes you may get off at the same point you’ll get on, but it’ll be a different person getting off the ride. You’ll have grown in a major way. Knowing that is why I like the roller coaster. I understand what it means.
This is where there are phrases like the second spouse gets what the first one paid for. So in my case every woman after my wife was treated with more care and attention than I had previously had invested. I did a lot of loving things and I would have died for my wife, but that didn’t mean I was respecting her the way I should—and at our ages who knows, maybe she wasn’t respecting enough of how I was either, I don’t know. But I know that’s her journey not mine. I just know it made me better and I like who I became and I was sorry I couldn’t have been that guy for her.
If you jumped on the roller coaster you’ll love the huge chain-clinking ride up that first huge hill. You chose this ride and you’re determined to love it. And while it will scare you much more than you anticipated, and the excitement dies down over the course of the ride, you’ll still feel like you came out on top. For those who were pushed on—you can either close your eyes even tighter, hold on and end up being too much like the person you were, or you can open them up, accept the twists and turns as a part of the ride and then just relax as much as you can and you will become a new and better version of yourself.
The ride is inevitable but you have a lot of control over how it feels. But to do that you have to stay conscious of your thinking. Because the ride isn’t really made up of the tracks and where they go, they’re made up of how excited or how afraid you are of the twists and turns. It’s what happens inside your head that counts. So spend less time trying to manage the outside and invest a bit more time on your accounting of things. Life may be tumultuous but you can still have a lot of fun while it’s happening.
If you’re on a roller coaster right now just relax as much as you can. Yes you’ll get jostled. Yes you’ll scream and cry. Sometimes you’ll wish it was over but some parts you’ll love like crazy. Just don’t get on and bitch that it exists. If you have to ride it, ride it your way.
Have a great time. And a great day. All the best.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.